Recently my mother told me that she ran into my old teacher, Mrs. Isaacs, who told her to give me a hug. For many reasons Mrs. Isaacs was my favourite teacher. One incident stands out far from the rest. In response to the Daily Post’s writing challenge on “Transcripts” this post is about the one day with Mrs. Isaacs that still stays with me, even now.
It was 1996, a new school had opened very close to my home, so I had all new teachers. I was 11 years old. I was an overweight child and had never been good at any form of physical activity. At the beginning of every school year, students would compete against each other in different sports activities which would them lead to the winners from different schools competing against each other at inter school sports days. Participation in sorting the wheat from the chaff for these events was compulsory for everyone. This included me, with all my extra bread rolls.
By this time, whenever running was required in years gone by I would be last across the finish line. I had reconciled myself to this inevitable reality. Enter Mrs Isaacs. A woman who ran miles every single morning for what seemed like her entire life. Before we take our marks, she explains that running is only ten percent legs and the other ninety percent is in your mind. She explains this with such graceful conviction that somehow, I actually believe her. In this simple act of believing, I run. I really and truly run. When I stop and look around me, behind me even, I am not last. Never mind the fact that I am not last, there are other children who are thinner than I am, who crossed the finish line after me. I stood there, flabbergasted.
In a little under three weeks I will no longer be employed by my current boss. A letter that I wrote a little while ago was supposed to cure me of the demons that my boss placed in my head. That letter was not enough. Writing it patched me up but it did not cure me.
I drown in work on a daily basis. I make tea for clients, answer the phone, do all the filing and typing for what is a minimum of fifty files per day. He hovers over me like a fly. We are extremely busy and new work arrives on a daily basis. My boss’ previous secretary was an alcoholic for most of the time that she worked for him, which was eleven years. In this time there was a nervous breakdown, a suicide attempt and one round of rehabilitation.
There is a simple solution to the problem of work load that we have. To hire another staff member. Even if this person only does filing, our office will run much smoother. The thing is my boss is not willing to spend the money on more staff. I have been asking him to hire another staff member for months. I work nine hours per day and eat lunch, which I bring from home, at my desk. I work most Saturdays and sometimes work an extra two hours of overtime over and above my usual nine hours. This was never sustainable. I have bouts of flu and lucid intervals of health. I believe that the reason for this is that I work too much.
Is any of this worth it? At this point I don’t know. I work at a high pace and have moments of extreme anger when I fantasize about becoming a serial killer. Or about swearing in my mother tongue at my boss in words that he wouldn’t understand, at the top of my lungs. So what can I do? I have spoken about this, I cannot speak any more.
I can only wait for the last weeks to pass, try my best, work hard like I always do and pray. Praying is the most important action I can take because prison orange is not my colour.
You will never read this letter, but I must write it, for my own peace of mind.
You seem like a kind man, and address me with courtesy, most of the time. You have never raised you voice to me, I appreciate this and thank you.
You work Sunday to Sunday and expect others to do the same. Others being me and whoever else has the inclination or desperation to do so.
Your mind and your actions go into a million directions at the same time, every moment. You can say no to no-one. You somehow expect me to be this way with you when such behaviour is against everything I believe in. The things I believe in are focus, progress, calm action. I may not possess these things at all times but they remain what I strive for. These things are not even an afterthought in your own life. You are chaos.
You present advice of common sense to your clients, I see and hear you do so. Yet, like the barber whose hair looks like shit, common sense is your enemy.
Delay with the smallest thing to you, which is an important thing to me, is your friend. I hope in vain this brings you some joy, while in reality you are not even aware that your delay in providing my small reasonable requests made me lose respect for you. Respect lost is like trust lost, getting it back when you don’t even know you’ve lost it is impossible. The way you look at me makes me believe that in your eyes I am a slave. It makes me believe that everything I say to you is so trite it means nothing.
I released your shackles and you handed me over to a more worthy employer. I have mere days left with you.
Your oblivious demeanour and greed for monetary gain may very well guarantee a high staff turn over for the life span of your business. Your frenzied manner of work, inability to say no or manage your time well will see you look back at a life wasted. You will think on your deathbed you should have worked less. But I am only a slave and you will never read this letter. As I unchain the shackles you bound me in and bid you farewell, may the grace of God be with you.